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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Before one talks about Islam and the Middle East these days, it is important to start with a context.  There is so much disparaging that I believe it is critical to show the side of life and belief that are not talked about or portrayed on Western media channels.

Unlike Western languages, Middle Eastern languages are symbolic.  A word is more than a concept or a group of letters or set of grammatical rules.  A word is a philosophy.  The above image showcases Compassion. I do not read or understand the language so I will share the explanation from the page from which it is shared:

Bismil-Laahir-Rahmaannir-Raheem is the soul of Islam which recognizes and honors the very existence and all Blessings, Compassion and it’s the very source of all Mercy from Almighty Allah Subhaanahu wa Taala who responds to our moral integrity and our tremendous love for Him . This is said at any tasks that Muslims take before entering a house, eating, reading a book and also beginning any prayers.

I find it appropriate for this blog post because I use this post to join my voice to those of outsiders begging for compassion for Raif Badawi and those like him.  For those unfamiliar with Raif Badawi, you can read a summary of his story here.  Before you start pontificating about Islamic barbarism, I’d like to remind everyone of a certain period in Western History called The Holy Inquisition.  Those who claim the West has become more civilized would have to answer the question my heart friend labeled by others as an atheist has asked: if you believe in a loving God, why must honoring his love be done through the destruction or demeaning of others?

Many Western countries believe in the separation of Church and State.  In this belief lies the assertion that each should have no authority over the other.  In the Middle East the approach has been Church and State are one.  Muhammad was both a religious prophet and a military general.  He brought unity to the Middle East.  You can read a brief account of his life here.  His legacy was preserved for centuries but now the current state of chaos and destruction has many questioning and looking for the path that will restore safety and order.  An insight on some of the debates.

I do not know the sum totality of Raif Badawi’s writings or talks.  All I know is the little I have read in the link I have shared.  A see a man bitter about the level of despair he is living in and desperate for a change that will bring peace and order so he can sleep soundly knowing his wife and children are safe and healthy.  In anguish we say many harsh things that, in a calm state, we would most likely have said a little differently.  Add to this the mixed blessings of youth that has not yet been tempered by aged deference to the status quo or to patience.

Most importantly, I cannot tell people of another country how they should administer their own laws or what they should believe and do.  What I can do at this time is share my confusion.  The Islam I grew up watching as an outsider was so peaceful and benevolent it made me feel Christianity often feel short on the true meaning of God and Love.  The Islam I see today is factionalized and violent.  The writings and principles of Islam have not changed so what has happened?

There are times in any culture and history when a person or an action becomes symbolic of a much larger meaning than the context in which it originally took place.  Raif Badawi and others are becoming such symbols.  Throughout the Islamic diaspora there is open debate on the rights to self-determination, religious practice and self-expression.  Here are views from Malaysia and Britain.  As an outsider, it is hard for me to understand how flogging anyone will settle such debates.  Catholics have tried flogging and self-flagellation  both of which still have supporters.  However, for most (myself included), such practices alienate people from religion, acceptance and tolerance.

It is important to note that daily life still goes on despite chaos and conflict.  Here is an image from a caligraphy workshop:

Fear and terror should have no part of daily life.  Hence, for me the debate is not about whether Raif Badawi should be flogged, imprisoned or exiled.  The debate is about what is the best mechanism to practice Bismil-Laahir-Rahmaannir-Raheem in the current Middle East?  As an outsider, I humbly beg for mercy to be shown as a symbol of compassion and tolerance during such difficult times.

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Sharing Faith

#Give Faith, #Build Leaders, #Positive Prophecy, #Give Happiness, #Practice Kindness, #Seek Knowledge

I participate in a group designed to build women leaders and celebrate the feminine side of power. On the work/life side is StudioG http://www.studiogsandiego.com/#!studioglabs/c6os. On the Faith/Reflection side is Resurgence.  The goal is to create a safe space for women to explore their identity and their ability to be agents of change in the world.

Men are welcome and encouraged. As women we know what it is like to be excluded from “power circles” and are deliberately focused on being inclusive. However, we do caution that the group is a conflict free and complaint free zone. You come to the group with positive energy, positive language (about yourself and others), positive attitude (irrespective of what you are going through in life) and a desire for growth (at all levels of your personality and life).

As a group, we learn to embrace and celebrate our differences through the Path Elements Profile (PEP)™ http://pathelementsprofile.com. Shelly Shepherd honors her last name by shepherding us to overcome our creative tensions and pursue our destinies. We shared the delight of hearing Laurie Beth Jones read her forthcoming book The Contessa Chronicles which teaches us, among other things, that Wisdom is a woman and the real strength that taught Solomon and other wise men. (Evidence for non-believers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_literature and http://www.women-philosophers.com/Teachers-of-Socrates.html). It also gives a liberating and deep felt belly laugh window into the possibilities of Divine Family.

I have been part of the group for 9 months. In this time, I have identified systemic improvement as my core value and started to explore what it means to be 10x bolder in advancing sustainability. I have also had the honor and priviledge of watching others blossom. Liz has taken her passion for healthy living and launched her own wellness training series http://lizzardfit.tumblr.com/ plus got her mom to join the group! Molly has found her voice and is using her Human Resources skills to teach us all how to create a life full of possibilities that we WANT and controlwww.discovercareercompass.com.

Then we have members like Leslie Bailey who bring forth Quijotesque goals. Leslie told us, I want people to have FAITH. I don’t want fights about God and religion. I want people to share love, happiness and the belief that good IS in this world protecting us at all times. Well, this goal is definitely not a solo act!

Leslie asked that we help her reach her goal by “sharing an encouraging quote or verse. It should be a favorite text verse/motivational poem/prayer/meditation that has lifted you when you were experiencing challenging times.”

I guess this doesn’t carry the same “legitimacy” without an explanation of what I’ve found most challenging in life.  My arrival to San Diego in 2010 was an arduous journey.  I left the safety of family and friends to come to a city where I knew no one because I was 100% sure I’d get the help I needed to reach my goals.  For the first 3yrs I mostly found hatred (granted there were kind people).  The personal cost was high and for a six month period, statements like these (stated as “normal conversation” below my apartment window so that there was no proof of harm and I would be dismissed as crazy) were a daily occurrence:

On Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 9:08 PM, Sara Smith <sis010771@yahoo.com> wrote:
OH LIONS LICK ASSHOLES TO GET THE TASTE OF NIGGER OUT OF THERE MOUTH HAHAHAHAHAH PSYCHO BITCH

On my birthday in November 2011, I couldn’t take it anymore and ran away by driving off terrified.  I got arrested for speeding and failing to yield to police.  In March 2012 I was arrested for “felony evasion of police.”  I spent 12 months in jail (I refused to post bail, I told the first defense attorney she was completely incompetent so she declared me mentally incompetent, I decided to exercise my constitutional right to refuse to co-operate with mental examination and got put in a state prison hospital with forced medication).  The first label assigned was schizophrenic.  This was then changed to bi-polar.  Ironically, all those who have made the “diagnoses” have never talked to any of my doctors or family or friends (even though I’ve been on this planet for 43yrs and have never had such labels assigned to me before).  Very triumphantly they have declared themselves the triumphant discoverers of a “truth” everyone else missed.

Soooo, when I hear about campaigns to create controversy by banning words like “bossy”  I think, if you really want controversy, why not ban hate speech?  Answer, as despicable as it is, in the US Constitution it’s protected by the 1st Amendment.  The irony of my situation is that the Coronado Police did their best to help me.  They warned, this is dangerous territory and you cannot deal with this alone.  We know this is hard but try to keep yourself away from people like these.  I was too focused on proving I had the same rights to exist to listen.  The one label that I do accept out of all of this is “oppositionally defiant.”  Telling me that this approach doesn’t win friends and influence people is like telling me I’m black.  Really???? I must have not seen this EVERY time I look in the mirror so thank you for pointing out the obvious (I AM being sarcastic).

At StudioG we learn to find ways to harness our nature for the benefit of others.  When I was released from jail (pled guilty just to get out) family and friends insisted I should go back to safety.  However, my oppsitionally defiant side took over: I’m staying right here in the same city where I experienced the unthinkable because I’m going to finish what I came here to do – build myself professionally and become a sustainability thought leader.  As if by magic, everything started to transform and on a daily basis people who are 100% committed to helping me reach this goal have started to mentor me (most without knowing the struggle behind the struggle – at least until now).  They are doing everything they can to make my life easy and happy.  They push me to reach beyond anything I have imagined for myself (here I thought I was a big dreamer).  In short, when Leslie says, have FAITH, it pays off, I can testify to that!

The biggest lesson learned over the past 3 years is that we have choices.  I should have chosen to handle things differently but I didn’t.  Those full of hate could have chosen to be nice and kind people but they didn’t.   In the end, it was a zero sum game.  I don’t know what price they paid and I really don’t care.  Living a life consumed by such hatred is prison and hell enough.  I thank God and the Universe EVERY DAY that I’m not them!!!  I also give thanks for getting away from them and finding safety in San Diego.  I won’t lie and say there was no urge for vendetta.  However, that would turn me into that and that is NOT my life!  During trials like these one has to learn to be good just because.  While in jail, there was no reward for being good.  I was shell shocked to hear how hard other women’s lives have been and what they have survived.  My belief in a system that yields justice was destroyed and replaced by the knowledge of a system that delivers punishment at all costs.  Yet, in that hell, the very people I was always told to stay away from (repeat criminals) are the ones who protected me and taught me how to survive because they realized I would never make it without their help.  Every day I felt the guilt of knowing that, in my world, nobody would give them the same help because they would always be “a criminal.”  I’ve sought refuge in a gated community and made sure that I don’t live alone.  I will never accept breaking the law as a norm or as a solution but I feel an obligation to create a world where people are not trapped by “the system.”

The words we use are important.  Every day we can make a choice to try and destroy people’s emotions or to uplift them.  Positive Prophecy is the act of saying and doing things that uplift others to goodness and greatness.  Helping others do what is right.  I cannot let criminals into my life but I can use my voice to tell others to stop the hate and stop the abuse.  Let’s build a world where people hear good things from the day they are born until the day they die.  There are many other female leaders who have called for this and all I’m doing is adding to the chorus.

One of the videos we watched the first Unlocking Your Genius series I attended is

Martina McBride’s  Anyway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uLtyzRgmyI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D6uLtyzRgmyI#

As a Catholic, this aligns well with Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway prayer.http://prayerfoundation.org/mother_teresa_do_it_anyway.htm

I’m no Mother Teresa but, every time I feel discouraged, I think of her other reminder:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mothertere121243.html

And practice her prayer….

Sooo, even if you are not religious and even if you don’t believe in God, please help Leslie reach her goal by posting  your favorite text verse/motivational poem/prayer/meditation that has lifted you when you were experiencing challenging times.

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It has been years since I tried to wax poetic so here goes….

For the past 8 weeks I have been participating in a Sunday reflection group where we discuss faith (not as in religion but as in faith that overcomes all obstacles) and the role of women in society. Before the group, I could only state that I know women as leaders are different but I could not tangibly express why. While we all encompass both male and female energy, many don’t think of women as a force, let alone a powerful force. We are symbiotic and balance. If we are excluded, imbalance occurs.

The following ode defines women

Female Energy:

I am Presence. I have existed before time.
Many have attempted to defeat me and have failed.
Their brutality is their weakness.
My strength is existence itself. My force is life.
Truth has me as counsel because my voice, although soft,
rings deep and shifts the unseen.
Even if I stand alone among you, silent and fully covered,
you will know I exist and I am undeniable.
I nurture life and life radiates from me like a beacon through darkness.
My adaptability is infinite. Richness and abundance flow through me.
I am the completing embrace of love. I am the victory of wisdom!

Contrast this with men and the need for both is clear.

Male Energy:

I am Determination. I have built the structure and order of things.
I give form and shape to the invisible.
Many have attempted to destroy me and have failed.
Their ignorance is their weakness. I am the voice of reason.
My strength is universal. My force is direction.
Truth builds on me because I incorporate all things.
If I were to stand among you alone and raise my voice,
you would not notice I am naked because my voice can move mountains.
Life exists because I create it and protect it. My dependability is steadfast.
Wealth and luxury flow through me.
I am the forming embrace of love. I am the victory of conception!

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I find it sad that most religions focus on teaching one dogma and emphasizing how religion makes us different instead of how it makes us similar. Even though I practice as a Catholic, I find great enjoyment in learning about other forms of practicing one’s spirituality.

Overall I am fascinated by how religion/spirituality shapes our view of the world.  In particular, I want to learn about non-dominant religious/spiritual beliefs and traditions (as well as languages) that offer insights on how we can peacefully co-exist with nature and each other.  I also love mythology and currently want to learn more about Nordic mythology. Stories and videos are easier for me to digest rapidly so links to these are deeply appreciated. Here are examples of what I’m trying to learn (not limited to these cultures):

Ojibwe culture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ojibwa

Luo culture (I’m half Luo and interested in stories from the diaspora of Luo people) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luo_(family_of_ethnic_groups)

Islam (this is a dominant religion but the Islam I grew up observing is not the Islam I see being practiced today. Especially with respect to the role of women.  Hence I am very curious to hear traditional Islamic stories that glorify the role of women) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam

Maori (I looked up Mauri and it is defined as a word that means “the life force which all objects contain;” the language is dying and it would be a tragedy to lose its insights) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maori_language

Nordic mythology (in college I was taught about Roman and Greek gods but not about Nordic ones and yet Nordic beliefs have influenced Christianity) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_mythology

Vedic mythology (lately every time I come across a fascinating concept I find it has its origins in Vedic teachings and yet I know nothing about these teachings) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedic_mythology

The Akan from Ghana (one of my favorite books: Conversations with God, states that text is the most primitive form of communication and symbols represent highly evolved civilizations with mind-to-mind transfers being the highest form of communication; we are only taught about Egyptian hieroglyphs but these are equally fascinating) http://www.marshall.edu/akanart/AKANCOSMOLOGY.HTML

The Zohar. One day I would like to learn Hebrew and Aramaic so I can read the ancient texts for myself instead of having to rely on translations. Of course this means I would also have to learn Sanskrit and Persian. Hopefully I’ll have many years during “retirement.”  http://www.kheper.net/topics/Kabbalah/SeferZohar.htm

Numerology. Yes, Numerology. Even if you don’t believe in it one has to wonder how weird ways of adding up the letters in one’s name or one’s date of birth can yield any information that is even remotely relevant to one’s personality. Do I believe in predestination/immutable fate? No. Would I use this to guide my decision making? No. Is it fascinating nonetheless? Absolutely! Why does it work in any way? http://www.ehow.com/how_2098450_understand-destiny-number-numerology.html

http://www.awakener.com/introduction.html

Why am I interested in this?  There is much hype about “The Secret” and many are promoting teachings as new discoveries but in reality the lessons are from ancient peoples who have kept traditions and knowledge systems alive.  Scientific research is now validating what were previously viewed as mystical beliefs.  While science catches up to ancient wisdom, I want to learn more about the wisdom that has been ignored.

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